Saturday 21 April 2018

'In five or six years, there will be no businesses left, we're all in trouble' - the Irish town worrying for the future

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Eamon Geraghty in his menswear shop in Tuam. Photo: Andrew Downes
Eamon Geraghty in his menswear shop in Tuam. Photo: Andrew Downes

Tuam has seen its share of bad news and closures. The Co Galway town saw the railway close down in the 1970s, the loss of the sugar factory in the 1980s, the hospital closed in the 1990s, and it was left reeling by the recession in the late 2000s.

A decade later, empty commercial properties are evident throughout the town of almost 9,000 people. The recent opening of the motorway linking the town to Galway has offered a lifeline - and other towns around Ireland will be looking on with interest as the Government last week pledged better road connections to help modernise the country.

However, the consensus among businesses as the Government announced its national development plan is that policy, not promises, is desperately needed. John Joyce has been an auctioneer in the town for the past 30 years. With the new motorway opening, he is now seeing an improvement.

He said the town needed better amenities, such as a greenway along the old disused railway line - a sticking point for some who hold out hope that the rail corridor could reopen.

Eamon Geraghty runs a clothing store in the town but he worries for the future of family run stores. "The Government has done absolutely nothing for family business and I can see, in five or six years, there will be no family businesses. Online retailers are the biggest hit to us. Unless the Government slaps a fee or Vat on this, we're all in trouble," he said.

Frank Reynolds ran a family business, Western Refrigeration, which thrived for over 65 years before being forced to close in 2010. He has now opened a chocolate shop, Orange. "They need to review the rates and if income tax was lowered a bit people would have more money to spend," he said.

Frank Reynolds with a monster easter egg from Orange, his chocolate shop in the Co Galway town. Photo: Andrew Downes
Frank Reynolds with a monster easter egg from Orange, his chocolate shop in the Co Galway town. Photo: Andrew Downes

Brendan Holian has been a publican in the town for 21 years and has taken a big hit since the recession.

But he does acknowledge that good transport links can transform an area.

"You have people travelling from Gort now, it's just 20 minutes on the motorway. We will get more people just coming into the town," he said.

For more information on Project Ireland 2040 visit the official website 

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Irish Independent

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